Previously, our heroes met undercover with the illegal slavers in a seedy bar in Codruscut. Now, they are going to set their trap and eliminate them...
Read the first part of this campaign log here.
Our heroes return to their ship, the Girisim, to pick up the rest and prepare for their infiltration of the castle. On the way, their prisoner Petros explains they will leave the city and then go around the palisade wall until they reach the drain pipe where they are to meet the illegal slavers’ representative. When our heroes question if they would not be challenged when transporting slaves in the open, Petros explains they never bind the slaves: the threat of punishment is enough to keep them in check.
Our heroes set out in the dark. They leave Codruscut through the southern gate, then follow the palisade wall for about an hour until they reach the remains of the moat. As they proceed, they notice that no patrols challenge them, which they find odd. They also notice for the first time that Codruscut is very isolated: once beyond the gates, wilderness begins at once.
Petros shows them the drain pipe. However, as our heroes prepare to enter it, Kaan sees something shimmer in the distance, most likely armor. There is a quick discussion, and everyone agrees that chances are high that this is an ambush: there must have been some innuendo between Petros and Ernos during the meet. They decide to enter the pipe anyway; Zikan will stand guard at the entrance.
Shortly after his friends entered the pipe, Zikan spots several armored men on horseback with lances and dogs. The team in the pipes hear dogs barking and men shouting from farther down the tunnel as well.
Our heroes quickly discuss what to do. Petros, however, interrupts their discussion: he says they’re surrounded. They should just surrender.
Erdan, now certain that Petros has betrayed them, slits his throat. Our heroes then proceed through the gate and toward the vaulted chamber that lies ahead. There, they find several guards and their dogs lying in ambush.
Unfortunately, what should have been an interesting and spectacular battle became a somewhat boring one that the players just barely survived. While disappointing, it was interesting from a development point of view.
Our five heroes faced eight guards. Each guard had 750 Character Points, about 50 fewer than the players. They also faced two mages, each with 1,050 Character Points, about 300 more than the players. There were also nine attack dogs worth 700 Character Points each. The players had five monks on their side, each worth 800 Character Points. It was safe to say that in terms of Character Points. Also, two of the guards had crossbows (which they fired once), and the distance between the two groups of combatants was about 8 cubes.
What made the guards tricky adversaries was that they all had Defense skill level 3 and equipment with between 19 and 20 maximum Defense Points and 3 Resistance. On average, these guys absorbed 13 Body damage, which is more than most of our heroes deal on an average roll. Since most had shields as well, their Hit Difficulty was 6, which meant our guys could not focus on damage only.
In my mind, there are three ways to counter enemies with this type of build:
- Combine attacks through the assisting mechanic (see Core Rulebook, page 20): this mechanic, when used with the right powers, allows players to combine dice pools and deal increased damage to pick off their foes one by one;
- Deal other damage than Body damage: the guards had low Mind and Soul levels and would have been easy to kill for a practiced Animist or Psion;
- Deal Body damage that bypasses Defense Points and Resistance: this is the domain of the Infusion skill.
It took the players a while to mobilize the right firepower (i.e. Bogdan’s Concussive Attack power (see Core Rulebook, page 83) and Kaan’s Nightmare spell (see Core Rulebook, pages 173-174). By the time they did, the two spellcasters had already killed Razvan with Immolate spells (see Core Rulebook, pages 164-165), while the rest was caught up in a quite boring exchange of blows that amounted to nothing as the guards were too weak to truly deal a lot of damage and the players were too weak to pierce their enemy’s armor.
This confirmed to me that the Stage has a kind of rock-paper-scissors mechanic: beat warriors, Infusers, and Animators with Mind or Soul damage; beat archers, Projectors, and Psions with Body or Soul damage; and beat Animists and Apportators with Body or Mind damage. As such, a group needs to have access to all three types of offense and defense to be successful. I do not think this has to be a problem, but it is something that perhaps needs a little more attention in the core material.
What is a problem, however, is boredom resulting from combat bogged down due to combatants with high Defense skill levels and good armor sets. A few players were yawning during this combat--and rightfully so, because all the flair goes from battle if people just bang each other on the shield. I am not entirely sure if this occurred because I didn’t add enough variety to the opponents (maybe include a few more swashbuckling types next time) or if the armor mechanic may be fundamentally flawed.
It also didn’t help that there were five NPCs, which required me to do a lot of dice rolling that wasn’t relevant or interesting to the players.
In the end, our heroes emerged victorious, although Razvan and four of the monks had fallen. Lucky for Razvan and the monks, Bogdan was able to use his Medicine (reanimate) skill (see Core Rulebook, page 53) to save Razvan and two of their monk allies, leaving them with a total of three surviving monks (two regelui and one amurgi).
But don’t get me wrong: there were also some cool moments in the battle: Erdan used some of his home-made poisonous gas to deny the enemy access to certain cubes, which was not only tactical, but also resulted in nearly every dog being knocked out.
When the battle is over, Bogdan manages to save Razvan and two wounded monks from an almost-certain death. Our heroes have defeated the guards, but the way back is still guarded by more foes, and they do not know what lies ahead...
We had some good fun. The players received 120 Character Points, bringing the total for Erdan, Zikan, and Razvan to 1,020 and that of the rest to 1,000.
In terms of rules, this one left me with some mixed feelings:
- I need to re-evaluate the Defense skill. This is not the first battle that gets bogged down by armor...
- Examine the rock-paper-scissors mechanic. Maybe there are some additional creative ways to break through it.